The Brooklyn Nets will have their hands full when they take on the Eastern Conference powerhouse Milwaukee Bucks on March 9. With a roster that is already short, Brooklyn will be down five players. In addition to All-Star forward Ben Simmons, who has not played since the Nets returned from the All-Star break, they will also be without the services of starting center Nicolas Claxton, shooting guard Spencer Dinwiddie, forward Cameron Johnson, and sharpshooter Royce O’Neale.
On the Bucks’ side, they will be without Wesley Matthews and former Nets guard Goran Dragic.
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Nerlens Noel Has High Praise for Nic Claxton
Of the players on Brooklyn’s injury list, Claxton’s absence will likely be the most felt. Not only because the Nets are already thin at the center position but also because he is one of the best defenders in the league and would have drawn the assignment against two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who went for 33 points and 15 rebounds in his last outing against Brooklyn.
That assignment will now go to newly acquired center Nerlens Noel, who says Claxton is among his “favorite bigs” to watch.
“Even before I got here [Claxton] was one of my favorite bigs to watch, similar styles, especially early on. And he’s just getting better and better,” Noel said of Claxton after the Nets’ win over the Rockets via the New York Post.
“I’m in his corner and I want to help him continue to develop the right way. He’s balling. He’s got a different thing, winning basketball, winning plays.”
Nerlens Noel Sounds off on Nets Debut
With the Nets devoid of a true backup center to relieve Claxton, they signed Nerlens Noel to a 10-day contract on March 4. Noel made his debut against the Rockets on March 7, notching 2 points, 3 rebounds, and a steal in 18 minutes of play. Noel had not played in nearly a month after being bought out by the Detroit Pistons, so he will need some time to get reacclimated to the NBA game. But for now, he is just happy to be back on the court.
“It felt good,” Noel said to the New York Post. “It felt good to get some rust off. Yeah, a little winded in the first minutes, but it’s normal. Nobody can get away from that. But I’ve been doing a fair share. But at this point I just want to keep building on that, defensive-first mentality, rebounding, just try and make sure I bring a winning mentality to the game.”
After all the moves they made at the trade deadline, the Nets are still without a true backup center. Noel adds himself to a long list of reserve centers who have come through Brooklyn’s locker room along with the likes of LaMarcus Aldridge, Andre Drummond, and James Johnson. With the Nets still primed for a playoff spot, coach Jacque Vaughn says he played Noel for a long stretch to see what he can “contribute” on the floor.
“I wanted to see if Nerlens play in a basketball game and contribute and be able to pick up what we’re doing as a group. Also, see his quickness if he can protect the rim,” Vaughn said to the New York Post.
“He’s on a 10-day [contract], so I decided to use one of those 10 days pretty quickly to see what he was going to give us. So [this] was the night.”